40°C heat ‘virtually impossible’ in UK without climate change

People on the beach in Brighton, East Sussex, have reached 40 degrees Celsius for the first time. (Credit: PA)

The smashing temperatures of recent days would be “virtually impossible” in this country without climate change, experts say.

As the mercury rises above 40°C for the first time in British history, scientists say the writing is on the wall.

London Heathrow became the first place in the UK to ever record a temperature above 40°C, with a preliminary 40.2°C at 12:50pm this afternoon.

As a result of the heat wave, roads across London have melted and fires have broken out.

Met Office lead scientist Professor Stephen Belcher commented: ‘I didn’t expect this in my career, but the UK has just crossed 40°C for the first time.’

He added: “For me it is a real reminder that the climate has changed and will continue to change.”

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He said Met Office research had shown that “it is virtually impossible for the UK to experience 40°C in an undisturbed climate, but climate change driven by greenhouse gases has made these extreme temperatures possible, and we are really seeing this possibility now.” .’

A recent Met Office study found that summers with days above 40°C are still very rare – although the risk is increasing – but by the end of the century they could be as frequent as every three or four years as emissions remain high.

Emissions from human activity are pushing up the Earth’s temperature. (Credit: Getty)

Even with current commitments to cut emissions, summers with temperatures above 40°C could occur every 15 years by 2100, the study found.

Prof Belcher said: ‘We are already committed to a level of warming and these extremes will become more extreme in the future.

“The only way we can stabilize the climate is by reaching net zero, and of course the UK has made great strides in that direction.”

But he added: “We want to stabilize the climate at a safe level and that means reaching net zero soon.”

Climate change, resulting from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels that release heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has pushed up global and regional temperatures and made some areas drier, making heat waves more intense, frequent and likely.

dr. Friederike Otto, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said: ’40°C at Heathrow would have been extremely unlikely or virtually impossible without human-induced climate change.

“It is now an event that should not have surprised anyone. While still rare, 40°C is now a reality of UK summers.

“Whether it will become a common occurrence or remain relatively rare is in our hands and will be determined by when and at what global mean temperature we reach net zero.”

She also said: “It is also in our hands whether any future heatwave will continue to be extremely deadly and disruptive.

“We have the agency to make us less vulnerable and redesign our cities, homes, schools and hospitals and teach us how to stay safe.”

Environmental groups responded to the record high temperatures by calling for candidates for the leadership of the Tory, who will be the next prime minister, to prioritize action on climate change.

The remaining Conservative leadership candidates have pledged to hit net zero by 2050 but have been criticized for not focusing on it during the match.

Earlier this year, a damning report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicated that global warming poses a serious threat to physical and mental health, cities and coastal communities, food and water supplies, and wildlife across the globe. world.

Any further delays to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to already inevitable climate change means humanity will miss a “short and fast-closing window” to secure a livable and sustainable future, the scientists warned. .

People sunbathe at the West Reservoir in London (Credits: EPA)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the report as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” adding that nearly half of humanity in the climate danger zone and many ecosystems are on the brink of no return.

The assessment is the second in a series of three reports from the IPCC in the latest climate science review, which takes place roughly every seven years for governments.

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